Why are you so busy?


Years ago, 10 years to be exact, my friend, Beth, asked me the question, “why are you so busy?”

You see, I’d cram my weekly goals list so full of things and it’s amazing to me to think about now, but I’d actually get them all done.

But one day she asked me this question and do you know what I said?

“I think I’m trying to avoid the pain”.

The pain of infertility, of trying and trying to have kids, and this thing feeling and being completely out of my control.

Once I had that realisation, I slowed down a lot. It wouldn’t appear so to most people because I’ve always been a very driven person from my childhood, but a lot of slowing down happened. I even chose a word for the year, simplify, to help me focus on slowing down.

I think my default for not dealing with things is to get busy.

I’m now very conscious that when I feel like I need to do everything, it probably means I’m trying to avoid dealing with something emotional.

I then stop and ask myself, what am I trying to avoid?


So I’m going to ask you the same thing if you’re filling your life with non-life giving activities.

What’s really going on? Why are you so busy?

Marie Kondo said in her book that once your home is “tidy”, you then have no more space to avoid your big life decisions. I agree.

Gretchen Rubin says something along the same vein about a friend of hers: “I organised my fridge and now I can look for a new job”.

Are you occupying yourself with busyness (or social media or comparison envy) instead of dealing with your own big life issues?

Have a think and maybe you’ll also find that you’re avoiding something you need to deal with. If you’d like to work through some of these issues, I’d love to work with you. Check out the coaching options and email me when you’re ready.

Do you want to share? I’d love to hear more in the comments.

5 things I’ve learnt in the first 6 months of 2019

  1. I really love going on holidays. As it stands, we’re only now on our second holiday of the year. Usually we’re on holiday for the first week of the year, and then again in April/ May. This year the school holidays didn’t work to our advantage so we stayed put, and I reallllllllly felt the pressure in May and June.

2. I’ve met my goal and run four Four Tendencies workshops so far this year. I always knew I loved running workshops because it brings together many loves of my life – teaching, people, connecting and connecting dots for others, organising and stationery ๐Ÿ™‚ However, I had forgotten exactly how much I love running workshops. After every single workshop, I’ve been on such a high for the entire evening. My remaining two workshop dates are: 7 September for the Five Love Languages, and 2 November for the Four Tendencies. Take 10% off if you come to both workshops.

3. I’ve learned that boldness can increase the more you practise. My word of the year is BOLD because I suspected that if I wanted to run 5 workshops this year, I’d need boldness to put myself out there. Somewhere between workshop 3 and 4 I realised that I’m not scared to tell people about the workshops anymore. Not that I was scared, per se, but it felt a bit cringeworthy to put myself out there and say, “yes, come, you will benefit from doing this”. Honestly, a lot of it was reminding myself why I’m running these workshops. I actually sat with a journal and pen before workshop 3 and wrote down what people get from coming to the workshops. And then I think I spoke to people from a true place of wanting to help them. What is your word of the year, and how are you living it out this year?

4. I’ve also learned that I should definitely not tackle multiple house projects at the same time. In my defense, one went over by a month, one took two weeks longer than the other and the only one that worked exactly according to plan was the third one. Thank goodness those are all done, and now we save towards next year’s maintenance items. Isn’t it sad that house things are never done?!

5. My kids wrote their first set of exams just over a month ago. Well. As two upholder parents with questioner and rebel kids, I can say the entire experience has been a steep learning curve for all of us. We will definitely start setting clear expectations much earlier next time instead of leaving them to it for a few weeks by themselves. Upholders would take the exam timetable and work backwards and then diligently start studying; we’ve seen now that the other tendencies just don’t have that same way of responding to the expectation of studying. What’s your tendency, and how did you approach exams when you were at school or university?

What are some of the things you learned during the first half of 2019?

PS do you know, I’m still sometimes writing the year as 2018!

Organising Queen’s best books of 2018, just in time for summer/ winter reading


I thought I’d go ahead and post my best fiction and non-fiction books of 2018, just in case you want some backlist titles for summer/ winter reading.

Just like in the Northern Hemisphere, I also read a lot during our winter because I completely indulge myself in all that is good about winter (reading with tea under a blanket).

So here we go, first my top fiction reads and then my top non-fiction reads.

Fiction

Still Alice – Lisa Genova

Still Alice is 10 years old this year! If you get the physical copy, you might find the lovely 10th anniversary edition.

I loved this book so much but I’ll confess because I lean to the dramatic (!), it made me super paranoid that I was getting Alzheimer’s. That’s not a spoiler – it’s in the book blurb that it’s about a woman who gets early-onset Alzheimer’s. To this day, if I walk into a room and can’t remember why I’m there, I freak out a little inside.ย 

I gave this book 4.5* because it was so uncomfortable to read in places, but it is my own issues. It’s actually a 5* read.

The Ensemble – Aja Gabel

This was a debut novel spanning about 20 years in the lives of a string quartet. It is beautifully written, has interesting, compelling characters and still moves at a good pace. You don’t need to know anything about music (I don’t!) to appreciate and enjoy this book.

I still can’t believe this is her debut novel – it’s so, so good and was my absolute favourite book of the year (5*). I loved it so much I plan to listen to it in June on audio. And….ย  if you’re like me, once you’ve read the book,ย 

As an aside, Beth also read this book (the only one of my friends SO FAR!) and loved it, and we generally read completely different genres, other than psychological thrillers which we both enjoy.ย 

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Like Still Alice, this was also a book club pick. I loved everything about this book and I loved the mom character too, who I am sure is an enneagram 1.

This was a 5* read but I chopped off 1/2* due to a small detail near the end.

If you’ve read any of these three books, do let me know what you thought in the comments.

Non-fiction

How not to hate your husband after kids – Jancee Dunn

I know this is a clickbaity title but the research is so solid, and this is a fantastic book. She covers all the important parts of marriage – especially the ones that cause… disharmony…. and I loved every single chapter.

Lab girl – Hope Jahren

This was the book that made me see nature in a different way. I wrote so much more here.

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin

And I wrote more about this book here

And if you want to get inspired to get organised and nest, I’d love you to grab a copy of one of my books here.

Do you have any great backlisted titles to recommend to me?

PS These are affiliate links – it costs you exactly the same price and I get a few cents on each title for recommending it to you.

How strong are your foundations?

Often when it feels like things are getting a bit out of control, I find that it’s useful to stop and take stock of my foundational basics:

1. Sleep
Are you sleeping enough? I’m constantly surprised by just how many people don’t sleep well and expect to function at top productivity.ย Our bodies weren’t designed to go on and on without enough rest.ย 

If you’re feeling sluggish or like your mind isn’t 100% sharp, try increasing your sleep by just 30 minutes a night. If you’re currently sleeping 5 hours a night, get to bed 30 minutes earlier. Don’t try to remember; use your phone and set a daily reminder. Once that new sleep number is your normal, increase it by another 30 minutes, until you get to at least 7 hours every night.

More tips: here and here

2. Food

If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve shared pictures when I pack my lunch bag at night. I might have mentioned this but I seriously hate packing my lunch. And no, I have no idea why!ย 

A few weeks ago, I said to Kendra (9) that I was dreading doing my lunch. She said, “but you don’t hate packing our lunches” and I said, “no, I don’t. I love doing yours“. You know what she said?

“Then just pretend you’re packing our lunches”.

Simple but profound. I’ve been pretending ever since and it is a game changer. It feels more fun and it’s getting done quicker ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re not yet sold on menu planning, have a read here. I love menu planning because I love knowing what I have available in the house, and when we *actually* do eat all those meals in the same week, I do the metaphorical happy dance ๐Ÿ™‚

Thinking about food and what to cook/ eat/ prepare three times a day is exhausting (and mind-numbingly boring for me) so automate the process in order to free up your mental load.

3. Energy

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

This might seem like a “nice to think about” but I think it’s essential. Often in the past when I’ve mentioned to Dion that I feel like I’m in a funk, it’s because I’m not getting as much people time that I need as an extrovert.

I’ve since found that I need 5 one-on-one friend dates besides my two book clubs every month for my tank to feel full. I spread out those friend dates, at least one every week, and that works beautifully.

My husband is an introvert and if I see his energy flagging, I’ll rescue him by taking the kids to do something so he has alone time at home, or let him go do grocery shopping by himself. Granted, there are still people at the shops but he doesn’t have to talk all the time to two very chatty nine-year-olds.

These are foundational issues that, if attended to on a consistent basis, will definitely increase your happiness levels.

Leave a comment and let me know which one of these three foundational basics you’re going to prioritise for the next 1 – 3 months.

If you’d like to work with me, I do currently have 4 time makeover coaching spots available every month. Send me an email and let’s get you started.

It’s time for the Mother’s Day talk

I like to give myself a pep talk every year and I thought I’d share some of those thoughts with you too.

This is my 10th Mother’s Day and I’ll be completely honest with you – I have not had 9 fantastic Mother’s Days because I expected Dion to be a mind-reader.

Here’s a post I wrote when my twins were just under two.

I want you to have a great day, so here are 5 things I’d like you to consider in the days leading up to Mother’s Day:

  1. Get clear on your expectations

If you don’t know exactly what a good day looks like for you, think about it and get clear on exactly what you need/ want.

When my kids were young, there were a couple of years when I just wanted a 3-hour nap in the afternoon. No, it’s not selfish to ask for some time to sleep.

2. What are your love languages?

If you’re not sure, have a look at www.5lovelanguages.com and take the quiz. If you want to delve into the Love Languages some more, and you’re local, join me for a workshop on 7 September. Register and book your place now. If you’re not local, contact me for a Skype session.

If you think about your love languages, you’ll get a very good idea of what will satisfy you. My love languages are acts of service and words of affirmation, so I like tea in bed (so I can read for 30 minutes) and cards from the kids. And, of course, a clean kitchen once I get up. This year, I’ve asked them to come on a photo walk with me.

3. Ask for what you want

Your husband and kids are not mind readers. If you don’t ask them for what you want, don’t be surprised if you feel resentful during the day.

Some will say, “how boring to be so explicit”. That may well be but better boring and content, than surprised and resentful.

This might also be a good time to say what you don’t want. I said to my husband to please not buy me more pyjamas – I love pyjamas but all mine are still good ๐Ÿ™‚

4. Lower your expectations

I know I just said to ask for what you want, but still, lower your expectations. If you usually decorate the tea tray and make it beautiful, don’t expect that level of detail from your family.

Same with gifts – it will not be wrapped like you do, so relax about the details.

And last, but definitely not least…

5. Stay off social media on the actual day

Facebook and Instagram are good for many things but one thing they’re not good for are these sorts of holidays.

You don’t even like perfume but I promise you’ll get jealous of someone else’s perfume, etc. And don’t get me started on the “to my wonderful husband” posts ๐Ÿ˜‰

So… remember, stay off social media and you’ll be much happier.

Which tip resonated most with you?

Also, do share your love language(s) with me in the comments below.

Credit: Photos in this post were taken by Jeanette Verster in 2011 ๐Ÿ™‚

Consider making a life admin list

On my #19in2019 list, I have a number of house maintenance items. I googled and had a number of people out to the house to see the work and provide quotes.

Do you know what a frustrating process this has been? You would assume people would want the work but I’ve had to call/ WhatsApp people three times to just come out, keep hounding them for the promised quote, and on and on. I’m much more bored by this state of affairs than you are, trust me ๐Ÿ™‚

With all this back and forth, because I couldn’t keep it all in my head, I announced to Dion, “I think we need to make a Life Admin list”.

A life admin list is a fancy name I like to use for a master list that has all the things you need to get done listed on it.

So I made the list, took a photo of it and emailed it to my husband.

Interestingly, he said he felt overwhelmed when he first looked at it but I felt much calmer because the noise in my head was louder than the actual number of items on the page (only 10).

Does a big to-do list make you feel overwhelmed or calm because you can now see what needs to be done?

Here are some benefits to making a life admin list:

  1. you’ll get the noise out of your head
  2. you’ll easily be able to categorise items (phone calls, internet research, errands, etc.)
  3. you can prioritise and see which you feel able to attend to right now, both emotionally and financially
  4. you’ll feel able to tackle them in appropriate time blocks
  5. you can easily delegate/ make a separate Honey Do plea

I attended to 3 of those items fairly quickly: followed up on a start date for the one person who was actually professional in his dealings with us, sent a WhatsApp to another to say something like “thank you for your interest, but we’ve decided to go with someone else” and for the third, I emailed to accept the quotation and suggest a time for the work to happen.ย 

All that took about 5 minutes.

I share that not to wow you with my productivity, but to show you that we often make things much bigger in our heads than they need to be.

It’s exactly what a Power Hour could be used for. Just get on the phone and sort a few things out, or send a few quick emails. Once things are scheduled, that’s half the battle won.

I promise you – you can do it!

Hit REPLY and let me know when you make your Life Admin List. I’ve posted mine on Instagram; if you post yours too, use the #LifeAdminList and I’ll pop by to say hello.

How to be a happier person at work


Penelope Trunk once wrote on her career blog that if you want to be happier at work, have a shorter commute.

I read somewhere that the average commute in Johannesburg is around 45 minutes. Mine usually 40 – 45 minutes long.

That feels about right although I hear many stories of commutes being much longer too.

A few weeks ago I was driving to work and I realised that I was actually happier at work due to making my commute a pleasant part of my day instead of something to dread due to these five things I’ve put into place:

1. Choose the times you travel

I realise that not every job is flexible. I, myself, worked in a terribly inflexible job for just over a year. However, if you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get anywhere so see if you have flexible work times available so that you can travel to and from work at a more convenient time, traffic-wise, for you.

2. Use your commute for audio books

I recommend that you don’t only listen to music or talk radio. Even if you only listen to an audio book in the mornings or afternoons, you can get through most books in two weeks (about 7.5 hours). My rhythm is to listen to a book in the mornings and a podcast in the afternoons, except for Fridays which are reserved for listening to the Happier Podcast ๐Ÿ™‚

3. Stop for special pleasures

I’m not someone who would ever swing through a drive-thru for a coffee (or tea) but I do stop for photos. I leave an extra 10 – 15 minutes especially so that I have time to pull over and take pictures of autumn leaves, winter branches or the jacarandas. When I do stop, I’m always glad I took the time to metaphorically smell the roses.

4. Be intentional about your route

I love that we have clear seasons in Johannesburg and I choose the route I drive based on how pretty it is. I figure what’s 5 minutes here or there if I’m having fun?! So I choose beautiful leafy suburbs to drive through  or routes that have great autumn leaves or jacaranda trees. Sound crazy? Maybe, but I’m happier when I do.

5. Create buffer time

As I mentioned in 3 and at the start of the blog, my commute is about 40 minutes but I aim to leave an hour just in case there’s an accident or bad traffic. I had to train myself to think this way because my natural bend is to do things until the last possible minute; now I tell myself I can listen to my book or podcast ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t tell you how nice it is to arrive at places, finish listening to a segment if I need, or calmly pack up my work things instead of rushing into the building to a meeting.

Do you have any tips for a happier commute?

How long is your commute?

PS I’m always surprised when I ask people and they say, “it’s 15 minutes but in the traffic it’s an hour” because when are you actually going to work when it’s 15 minutes? 4 am in the morning?!)

{living intentionally} Intentional friendship update, one year later


At our last book club lunch last year, one of the members said, “we all just want to connect with another human being”. So true.

For years I almost didn’t want to admit to myself that I actually wanted to have friendships because it seemed like no-one else was talking this way and it felt…too vulnerable.

But I’ve gotten over that and now I freely admit that I want, and need, good friendships.

I also used to bemoan the fact that the organising/ logistics to get together seemed to lie with me, but I’m also over that, due to two things:

  1. D told me I need only do what I’m comfortable doing. This might seem like an obvious thing to some of you but I’m an enneagram 1 (we feel like it’s our job in the world to fix anything that is broken) and an upholder (friendship is important to me therefore I need to put systems in my life to support that) so it has always felt like I was responsible for everything.
  2. I actually largely prefer to organise things because I feel in control of things more ๐Ÿ˜‰

Last year I wrote about what I was doing to create intentional friendships in my life as an upholder, and how each of the other Four Tendencies types would do this too. You can read that post here.

To comment from an upholder perspective again, we work best with the strategies of scheduling, monitoring, clarity and pairing.

Clarity – I am clear on my comfort levels and how much I want to try to pursue/ “open the door” before calling it quits and letting things just flow. I’m also clear about what a life-giving friendship means to me.

Scheduling – this strategy has worked so beautifully over the last year. Our book club meets on the last Saturday of every month, and I have 5 standing friend dates every month. Of course this doesn’t work with everyone every month but it sort of evens out so that I have good 1:1 connection time with about 5 – 6 friends, because I also have some other friends who I have again scheduled once every 2 – 3 months. I realise this sounds terribly unspontaneous, but as Gretchen Rubin says, “something that can happen anytime often happens at no time”. Here’s where I “go with the flow”ย  – I let cancellations and such happen, and somehow at the end of the month, I find I’ve still had my 5 – 6 friend connections. It’s weird and wonderful all at the same time.

Monitoring – I still keep my friend spreadsheet and diligently update it at the end of every month, and then add friends to next month’s goals to keep it all ticking over. Try it, even if you don’t use an actual spreadsheet. You could have a list in your bullet journal with a date next to each friend’s name.

Pairing – I really only use pairing in a couple of instances. When I see clients in Pretoria, I always contact a Pretoria friend to see if she’s available to have lunch after my meeting. And I have a client in a part of Joburg whose offices are near another friend’s workplace. I always just reach out and ask if she’s available. What’s the worse that can happen? They’re busy but at least you’ve asked and they know you’ve reached out.

If you’d like to understand better how to harness your tendency with regards to your friendships, please join me for my next workshop, coach with me or take Gretchen’s deep dive course?

How are your friendships going? Are you happy with them?

The thing that delighted me most last year was this: I met a friend for lunch and she said, “let’s eat quickly. I know you like to walk and take pictures so I’ve planned a walk for us.” Well, that was just magnificent!

{time} Your ideal weekend

On a Monday a couple of weeks ago, a colleague at work asked me how my weekend was, as you do, and I said, “it was a really great weekend”.

“Oh,” they said, “tell me more”.

And then I realised that nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

I’d had a friend date on the Friday afternoon, hosted my kids’ book club, gone to Zumba and church, did some pottering around the house and read a book.

Kind-of standard things for me, but a really great weekend I realised because it had MY three ideal elements in the correct ratios.

  1. People/ out and about stuff
  2. Productivity
  3. Relaxation

It got me thinking that having a great weekend is completely within my control because I can control all of those components.

I’d been feeling a bit blah lately and when Dion and I unpacked my feelings, I realised I hadn’t had enough people time. As an extrovert, I’m energised by spending time with people.

My happy number is about 5 – 6 friend dates every month. Book club happens automatically and my friend dates are set up on a schedule, but when they get cancelled, I’m not upset (life happens) but I feel it later in this low energy state. What I need to do is then possibly reach out and just connect with a friend by phone.

We were at book club recently when one of our introvert members explained to two of us extroverts that it’s nothing personal but they just don’t feel the need to spend time with people. I must say, I was a bit surprised but I had an aha moment about friendship right there and then.

Over to you.

What does your ideal weekend look like? And are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does this play out in your weekend plans?

Your favourite posts of 2018

This is one of my favourite posts to do every year. I love having the statistics; I just dread the process of drudging through and compiling it all ๐Ÿ™‚

Some fun facts:

Over the last 365 days, we’ve had nearly 900 000 visits from 150 000 people.

Jan

Word of the year recap and my 2018 word

Organising Queen’s best books of 2017

How I read 120 books last yearย  (this post is my most popular post of the entire year – yes, I’m shocked)

Feb

3 ways to Konmari your digital life

What I want less of this year

On being moderate with fitness

March

What went well in February?

The book that changed how I view nature

Quarterly recap of my word of the year

April

Let’s talk about groceries and spending

How is your phone changing you?

What freedom means to me

May

You have more than enough time

Groceries experiment – feedback

What I’m bullet journaling these days

At this point in the year, I decided to do a little experiment. You see, I took the Deep Dive into the Four Tendencies course and the concept of Upholder Tightening really hit home.

Blogging twice a week was me being in the same spiral without considering if it was still what I wanted to do or if it was good for me.

I didn’t make any big announcement; I just quietly went from a Mon and Thurs posting schedule to Wednesdays. To date, not one person has said anything about this.

Because of the reduction in posts, these are the favourite post of the month from June.

June

What are your nos with books?

July

Are you a time pessimist?

Aug

My annual birthday review

Sept

Lovely limitations (if you’ve heard The Nester on podcasts lately, she has mentioned it a few times too)

Oct

On setting reading goals

November

Introducing my 2019 diary

Decemberย 

What I learned by writing every day in November

Were there any posts that surprised you? (there were for me – the book ones!) I’m also always surprised that the ones I like writing the most are not the most popular ones, but that’s par for the course.

Which was your favourite? What is your favourite type of post to read?



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